Title Card - Music And Concentration

Thoughts On Music And Concentration

After posting last week about my thoughts on learning a language, I decided I really enjoyed writing that very much and so I figured I would do something similar again! This week, I wanted to touch a bit on music, and how it helps people concentrate. Everyone it seems, except for me.

I’ve heard the suggestion many times: set up your workstation, clear off your desk, remove all your distractions…and put some music on to help you concentrate. I have heard some people who listen to some really intense and heart-pounding music while studying, and they claim that it helps them study. It very well might be the case for them, but personally, I just don’t see it! I can’t understand how some people can have this overwhelming mental stimulation and still have any capacity leftover for concentration.

Now, to say that I can’t listen to any music to help me concentrate isn’t entirely true. I’ve found that soft instrumental tracks are the only thing that I can listen to at all while I’m trying to do work, and even then, I find myself listening to it and analyzing it and appreciating some of the musical passages that can come from it.

“But Dan,” I hear you say, “that’s because you have a background in music, it’s just what you do.” Sure, you’re not wrong, I do tend to do that because that’s what I had done throughout my musical training, and I believe you’re on the right track with only part of the story. Even if I’m listening to a piece of music that is fairly repetitive and doesn’t interest me nearly as much musically, I still find myself listening to the first few repetitions before putting it in my mental background, and it’s not long after that I find myself getting irritated by the repetition, even giving me a headache.

Lyrics are right out for me, as the grand majority of the work I’m doing involves writing and communicating with language in some form or another, and hearing words that are not in line with the thoughts I’m trying to convey on the page only serve to distract and impede my thought process. So, it doesn’t exactly leave me with much to work with now does it?

The only thing which I have found to be even halfway useful is ambient noise or music. Ethereal soundscapes tend to fit this bill the best, although they also eventually give me headaches if I catch enough repetition in them. I eventually noticed that I tend to work at my best when there is some sort of consistent atmospheric noise around me, like the sound of the air conditioning pushing air into my room or the gentle patter of rain on my window. So, I tried listening to different natural ambient sounds while working, and they seem to help my concentration the most of anything.

That’s just how my brain works though. How about you? Do you listen to music while you work, or do you also find that having too much stimulus ruins your concentration as well?